Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Logical Fallacies- False Cause

One of the hardest fallacies to recognize is the false cause. So, what is a false cause? This is when people assume that two things are related that may or may not be, they just have commonality. Just because two things happen in close proximity (either in space or time), it does not mean they are related. For example, a study a few years ago said that women with PCOS were more likely to have a child with Autism. There were a few problems with this study, but the major problem was that it was small scale, and only looked at one factor PCOS. Not every child with Autism was born to a mother with PCOS and not every mother with PCOS bore a child with Autism. The study took place in only one country. This may mean that there are environmental factors, rather than physiological ones. The factors were not researched. The commonality of both conditions was cited. Just because many women with PCOS have children with Autism, doesn't mean that is a risk factor. It may be entirely independent of what causes Autism. People have searched for years for reasons Autism exists. 

It doesn't really matter for this post WHAT causes Autism, but it matters that the link isn't solid. The fallacy here is assuming that because two things exist in close proximity that one must be the cause of the other. 

A hypothetical example would be that the majority of mass murders happen in the South (I made that up and don't know if that is even remotely true), therefore since the South is warmer with more humidity, the people are more likely to kill. Well, it may be warmer and more humid, which can certainly make people miserable, but that doesn't mean that heat/ humidity creates killers. There are other factors to consider. Do these Southern mass murderers have other things in common? Race, socioeconomic status, gender, psychopathy, sociopathy? What caused the psychopathy/ sociopathy? Was that genetic or due to the environment of the killers? Simply assuming two things are related doesn't make them so. They may happen in the same span of time or with the same frequency, but that does not mean that one causes the other. 

Often I see this with the violence debate. People often debate that violent video games cause violent behavior, but many studies have shown just the opposite. Here, here, here, and here are articles in mass media that contradict that. I know you can find many articles that say it's true, but it really isn't clear, and is often a false cause. We are linking two things together that aren't necessarily related. Gun violence isn't necessarily related to video game violence. If it were we would have more issues throughout the world. Many other countries actually spend more on violent video games and play them more frequently, but are not seeing mass murders. It may be the cause. I don't know. What I do know is current research doesn't support this, and we can't assume that because two things happen at the same time, or even together, that one causes the other. 

That is the false cause fallacy or the fallacy of cause. 

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